So, you got a bad review?

Daniel Jalkut in his recent blog discusses a generally positive review of a useful Mac utility that closes with the suggestion that it “should be free.” The crux of his piece seems to be:

In short, if the product were free as in charity, would the product even exist, and be good enough to mention on MacBreak Weekly, where Leo could wish that it was free?

People have different motivations for making good software ((Jesper notes his reasons for offering his software for free. His argument makes complete sense but does not invalidate Jalkut’s complaint.)) but I think it’s fair to say that the most polished software usually has some form of income stream, whether that’s a licence fee, banner adverts or something less direct.

Of course one problem about selling software is piracy, but fortunately Brad Wardell wrote a great blog entry about just that and the effect that it has on his games company:

It’s irrelevant how many people will play your game (if you’re in the business of selling games that is). It’s only relevant how many people are likely to buy your game.

How, you might ask, is this connected with Jalkut’s argument? Well, the simple truth is that reviewers of your software are not paying customers. Their needs and desires and value judgements are not the same as yours ((I’m reminded of the comparative reviews of word processors that you got before there was little alternative to Microsoft Word. No matter how fully featured the program was, disregarding how user-friendly it was and regardless of the quirky or unique innovations it had, no word processor would ever get an unreserved recommendation without a decent word count feature. How many people even use a word count?)). Of course reviewers can raise the profile of your program but unless it results in more sales and not just more usage of your software then adding features or lowering the price only to please them is a waste of time.

If you want to sell software, your first priority should be keeping your customers happy, not reviewers.


One response to “So, you got a bad review?”

  1. I’d just like to note that the intent of my post wasn’t to invalidate Daniel Jalkut’s post. By and large I agree with it. However, I wanted to be frank about one of the reasons why I don’t demand money for any of my applications; I intended it as documentation of my own reasoning, not necessarily as advice.

    I believe in “reviewing transparency”: the fact that people review your software should ideally only serve to help the customer. A good feature request is a good feature request regardless of if a reviewer made it or not. Mostly, this works, since reviewers are actual users and since, for software that people actually use, it’s hard to pervert honest opinion.